Tuesday News Review

Cameron gets his way

David Cameron will today ditch plans to halve jail terms for offenders… after complaining his Lib Dem Coalition partners are stopping him being as tough as he wants to be. The Premier will humiliate Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg by killing off plans to offer 50 per cent sentencing discounts for criminals who plead guilty. The move, following weeks of public wrangling, comes after Mr Cameron suggested in a radio interview that the Lib Dems are preventing him from taking stronger action to bear down on immigration and benefit scroungers. His move on sentencing suggests he is concerned about cheering the Right-wing of his party, which was left seething last week by a retreat on NHS reform in the face of Lib Dem opposition. Tory MPs had expressed anger that the stance was undermining the party’s traditionally strong position on law and order.  Drawn up by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, and initially signed off by Mr Cameron, the policy was enthusiastically backed by the Lib Dems. Mr Clegg rowed in behind Mr Clarke as controversy raged, arguing that scrapping increased sentencing discounts would leave a large black hole in the Ministry of Justice budget. The proposals were designed to save £130million a year. It had been widely expected that the Coalition would end up offering a ‘fudge’ which would see rapists, sex offenders and those convicted of serious violence excluded from increased sentencing discounts, but less serious criminals included. But a Ministry of Justice source last night told the Daily Mail that the Prime Minister had overruled Mr Clegg and Mr Clarke and scrapped the scheme altogether. It is expected that deeper cuts to probation services will now help make up the funding difference. – Daily Mail

David Cameron has accused the Lib Dems of blocking tougher action on immigration and stripping the workshy of benefits. The Prime Minister rejected claims only Nick Clegg was being forced to compromise in the Coalition. He said: “We’ve all had to make compromises. If I was running a Conservative-only Government we would be making further steps on immigration control or welfare reforms.” Mr Cameron’s comments on BBC Radio 2 came as a report from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory dismissed the Government’s chances of cutting net migration to “tens of thousands” in four years. Annual net migration to the UK is currently 242,000, but the group predicts Coalition policies will reduce that number by 75,000 “at best” by 2015. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the report showed that the Government has “no workable policies” to meet its promise. She said: “David Cameron pledged to cut net migration. He’s not being straight with people.” – Daily Mirror

David Cameron has made his clearest admission yet that the coalition has clipped his party’s wings, saying that being in government with the Lib Dems has curbed Conservative plans on immigration and welfare. In an interview on BBC Radio 2 with Steve Wright he said: “If I was running a Conservative-only government I think we would be making further steps on things like immigration control or making sure that our welfare reforms were absolutely making sure that if you’re not prepared to work you can’t go on welfare – I think we’d be tougher, but we make compromises. “We make compromises, we make agreements, but as a government I think we’re delivering a lot of good things for the country.” The prime minister previously emphasised that being in coalition had improved policymaking. On immigration, the Conservatives are attempting to reduce net migration from outside the EU to “tens of thousands each year, not hundreds of thousands” over the lifetime of the parliament, while the Lib Dems had wanted to see an earned “amnesty” for illegal migrants who have been in the country for a decade. The coalition document committed the government only to introducing an annual limit on non-EU migrants through a mechanism yet to be determined, but in the interim Cameron and the home secretary Theresa May have consistently used harder language. Pressure from the business secretary, Vince Cable, also meant the Tories have been far less tough in placing annual limits on skilled work permits and overseas student numbers than they would have first liked. – the Guardian

No return to the bad old days

They’ve done it again this weekend – announcing big changes to pensions for nurses, teachers, dinner ladies and other low-paid workers before talks with their unions had even finished. Everyone agrees public sector pensions need to be reviewed as people live longer. But the Government should be getting round the table and talking changes through. They should not be pulling the rug from under people who have dedicated themselves to teaching, nursing or ­policing for 20 years. Last year, the number of working days lost because of strikes hit a record low because in this day and age – and thanks to 13 years of Labour insisting on it – both employers and unions want co-operation, not ­confrontation. The Tories want to wreck that ­approach. Let’s be clear what George Osborne’s game is. He knows the economy has flat-lined over the last six months. He knows he’s losing the economic argument on the deficit and jobs, and needs to change course. But instead he’s trying to pick a fight about ­pensions, provoke strikes and persuade the public to blame the stalling economy on the unions. That’s why trade union leaders must avoid George Osborne’s trap. He wants them to think that going on strike is the only option and the best way to win the argument. – Ed Balls, Daily Mirror

A seismic event early in your career usually resonates throughout the rest of your working life. This is exactly what happened to Ed Balls when he had a ringside seat for the debate about British membership of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in the early 1990s. Balls had recently arrived at the Financial Times when John Major took Britain into the ERM in October 1990 – against the instincts of Margaret Thatcher – a month before he succeeded her as prime minister. The then 23-year-old Oxford PPE graduate was one of a handful of people at the FT who were sceptical about British membership of the ERM. Major hoped that joining the ERM would help tame inflation. In September 1992 Balls was still a leader writer at the FT when Britain was ejected from the ERM in dramatic circumstances. David Cameronwas shaped by Black Wednesday as well. As a 25-year-old special adviser, he stood near Norman Lamont in the Treasury Circle on a balmy September evening as the then chancellor announced that Britain was leaving the ERM. – the Guardian

Another popularity contest

David Cameron‘s personal popularity has dropped, and the Liberal Democrats‘ poll rating has hit its lowest level for 14 years, a Guardian/ICM survey has revealed. But while the poll offers no joy for the coalition, it gives scant comfort forLabour: the party retains a narrow lead among voters in a hypothetical general election, but Ed Miliband‘s personal rating has slumped again and he is now competing with Nick Clegg for the title of most unpopular leader. Overall, hostility to the coalition has grown sharply, with 50% of voters saying the government is doing a bad job and only 35% saying it is doing a good job – a net rating of -15%. That is 10 points worse than March and 38 down on June last year, when the coalition was enjoying a honeymoon. The poll was carried out at the weekend after a difficult few days for the coalition, dominated by the relaunch of the NHS plans and announcements of industrial action by several public sector unions. Cameron remains more popular than either his party or the coalition, but only just, and he is in negative territory for the first time. While 42% say he is doing a good job, 47% say bad, a score of -5. In March his score was +5 and last June it was +23. – the Guardian

Labour leader Ed Miliband suffered a fresh blow last night when an ICM poll revealed that he was even more unpopular than Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, despite his party being ahead in the polls. The poll of 1,000 adults taken between 17 and 19 June gave Mr Miliband a rating of minus 21, down eight points since March and a point behind Mr Clegg, who has been under fire over cuts and student tuition fees.   Prime Minister David Cameron hit a new low of minus five, but was still 16 points ahead of his rivals.  The result comes after internal criticism that Mr Miliband, who beat his brother David in last year’s leadership contest despite polling lower among MPs and party members, is not managing to land any punches. There are concerns he is not making ground at a time of major U-turns on health and justice by the coalition. Labour is also struggling to stay ahead in the polls, with 39 per cent, just two points ahead of the Tories on 37. – the Scotsman

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